Fruitland Park opts out of contract with local caterer overseeing library’s café

Five months after inking a deal with a local caterer to oversee the café in the city’s new library, the Fruitland Park Commission has decided to go in a different direction.

At the urging of City Manager Gary La Venia, commissioners voted last Thursday to terminate the contract with K&M Creative Catering LLC, which had provided the food service at the Gardenia Café since the library opened its doors in July.

“The group we have in there now are wonderful caterers,” La Venia said. “But we’d like a vendor who operates in a different way.”

The Gardenia Café, located inside the new Fruitland Park Library.

La Venia didn’t go into great detail on the need for the change during the meeting, but afterwards he said he’d prefer to have a local vendor who offers pre-packaged food items that are made off-site and brought to the café each morning, instead of offerings that are cooked in the facility like the current vendor is doing.

“I’d like to keep the operation seamless,” he said. “I think that’s very possible. We are doing very well. People like the library and the café. But I’d like to bring in a new group who operates in a different fashion.”

La Venia said he already has a new vendor in mind but declined to elaborate on whom that might be. He said City Attorney Anita Geraci-Carver would send K&M Creative Catering owner Kathy Weaver a notice ending the contract in 30 days. He also told commissioners he’d have a contract with a new agency ready to be signed at the next meeting on Dec. 12.

“It’s not a reflection on this group,” La Venia said. “It’s just a matter of where we want to go with this process and with the product we are putting out. That’s all.”

The Gardenia Café, which is located inside the 12,000-square-foot, $3 million library, is named for the old Gardenia Hotel that once sat on the same property. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and has offered a variety of dishes, including home-cooked breakfast and lunch specials, like hot Reuben sandwiches and soups.

In addition to the name of the café, the library pays homage to Fruitland Park’s history in several ways. A large windmill that once powered the city’s water system towers over the facility. And the foyer of the coastal-themed building is dedicated to the Casino Community Building and contains original oak floors and windows from the historic structure that also once stood on the same site.